In the early weeks of COVID-19 taking over our educations, jobs, routines and, well, lives, it felt like all communications were shadowed in a greyish tint. The news, social media, even conversations among friends were saturated with negativity and fear. It seemed like the most contagious part of COVID-19 wasn’t the disease itself, but the overwhelming disquietude that none of us, not even the most lion-hearted or optimistic, were immune to.
Some time has passed since then, though, and with it many of us have been able to develop ways of acting and interacting that aren’t dripping with dread the way they once were. Perhaps part of it is that we’ve simply gotten used to the way of life during this prolonged speed bump. In the early days, we had no barometer for how this time would go for us, and, if you’re anything like me, the largest cause of anxiety is the unknown. Now that we’ve had some time to settle in, we know what to expect out of the following days. Though we don’t have a firm finish line in sight yet, at least we know what life is going to be like for however many more months social distancing measures need to be taken. We can take some degree of comfort in routine, however small, I think.
Maybe the renewed sense of comfort—the smiles on the faces of people taking their daily walk (always remembering to stay six feet away from other walkers, of course), is due to something else. I started to feel just a little bit better about an otherwise overwhelmingly negative situation when I read an article about China’s carbon emissions dropping by a quarter in the first four weeks of the country’s lockdown. Then, I logged on to Twitter, which I had come to regard as a minefield of bad news, and instead saw something…positive? Could it be? Pictures of the canals of Venice, Italy, running clear and blue. Neighbours gathering (at a safe distance) across the world to sing, to celebrate birthdays, to applaud front line workers. For every rising number that made my stomach turn with dread, there was a short video or photo that made my heart feel all warm and fuzzy.
Was I wrong for daring to feel happy amid such terrible circumstances? And, worse yet, to actually feel like there might be some good coming out of it?
Short answer: no. I don’t think so. I’m sure that everyone would agree with me that this is not the ideal situation. At the end of the day, COVID-19 has become quite the fiasco, to put it lightly. I’m certain that once all is said and done and we can all go back to safely packing on to public transit and licking doorknobs or whatever we used to do for fun, none of us will say that this tragedy was for the best, regardless of the small positives it brought out. With that being said, finding silver linings in the storm clouds is a great way to weather the storm.
It’s necessary, too. With a seemingly constant barrage of sickness and death, it’s easy to lose sight of what I believe to be a fundamental characteristic of human nature: goodness. The thing is, bad things happen, and that’s terrible. Sometimes the bad things are even caused by people, indirectly or, worse still, accidentally. Despite this, I still believe that human beings have a natural compass that points themselves towards happiness, and, potentially more important in these times, to make each other happy. We have a remarkable innate ability to know how to cheer each other up, and we do it because we know that happiness shouldn’t be a luxury—we need it to survive.
Other organizations have caught on, too. The morning news show I watch devotes at least half of its block to highlighting positive stories and encouraging good mental health habits among viewers. I recently started following an Instagram account, @goodnews_movement, whose mission is to provide stories of good will, unintended silver linings, and people having plain old-fashioned fun to lift the spirits. Even the Dalhousie community has made attempts to breed positivity. One Dal is devoted to providing “stories of how Dal is adapting, contributing and joining together to support our community locally, regionally and beyond during COVID-19.”
Striving to find positivity in such scary times is not wrong, nor is it naïve; it’s natural. Perhaps a situation, even one as life-disrupting and scary as this, doesn’t necessarily have to be exclusively bad. Maybe some good can come from the bad, and it’s our job to acknowledge those good things despite being inundated with the overwhelming bad of it all.
In these times, I can’t help but be reminded of the Harry Potter quote that’s been invoked so often that it’s firmly solidified itself in my mental museum of cliché’d quotes. I’m going to end with it anyway, because its use is more applicable now than possibly any of the other times it’s been used (maybe even than when it was used in the book itself), and because I’m a sucker for a sappy close. So, it is with the utmost confidence in my use of cliché and, moreover, in the ability of the human race to overcome this scary time, that I leave you with Dumbledore’s immortal words:
“Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” – J.K. Rowling